Wounded Warrior History Tour - Summer 2012

Maginot Memorial
Maginot Memorial

Our first stop into the Verdun battlefield memorial complex. André Maginot was a French public servant who left his position in government to fight in the war. He later became a prominent minister, responsible for building up France's defense system - known as the Maginot Line.

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What Had Once Been Green...
What Had Once Been Green...

Inside the museum there is a central "pit" which resembles the ground of Verdun during the war. Pulverized by millions of artillery shells, this shows the shredded moonscape that was the face of trench warfare.

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Old vs. New
Old vs. New

A key reason I approached the Wounded Warrior Project about doing this tour was for the perspective and community such a conflict might give some great American combat veterans. And these combat veterans on our tour were first class and showed an indomitable spirit. Luke shows the remarkable difference between the earliest artificial leg and that of today...

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A Band of Brothers
A Band of Brothers

It truly was a special tour. It was a tremendous honor to take these great veterans and outstanding staff on this trip. They really are a special group of people. We quickly became a family after no time at all...

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The Great Ossuary
The Great Ossuary

This building is the cornerstone to the entire battlefield memorial site - a massive crypt holding the bones of thousands upon thousands of unidentifiable war dead - German, French, and even civilians killed in the conflict. It is France's Arlington National Cemetery a hundred times over...

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Unknown Soldiers
Unknown Soldiers

In each section on either side down the Ossuary's long halls are the names of villages that were part of the front (and wiped out of history by shellfire). Beneath them lie the bones found in that same part of the front.

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Casualties of War
Casualties of War

The mass of bones piled beneath each upstairs memorial, full of the remains of the dead from each sector of the front.

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Sword in the Earth
Sword in the Earth

Some say this resembles a sword, buried into the Earth, its hilt showing. Others think it resembles a giant artillery shell - fitting for the thousands upon thousands of men killed by artillery's dreadful power.

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From the Top
From the Top

The view of one of the heavily fortified main guns of Fort Douaumont, from the top - in a much more tranquil, pastural setting.

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A Break in the Action
A Break in the Action

A final pose with many in our group, before heading to the bus and then to the American cemetery.

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A New World Order
A New World Order

Germany and France have since become close allies. It would take a second world war to make both countries see the futility in remaining at odds.

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Montfaucon
Montfaucon

A short distance to the north was the scene of terrible fighting in the last year of the war, 1918. The Americans took over this sector of the line and saw significant fighting in this area.

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The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery
The Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery

This remains the largest American military cemetery in all of Europe. That's right. It's not in Normandy or Bastogne, as many might assume. WWI remains a subject seldom studied or valued in typical American studies and film. There's so much to learn...

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Crossroads in Belgium
Crossroads in Belgium

Done with our study of WWI, we headed a short distance into Southern Belgium to the town of Bastogne. Scene of tremendous fighting at the end of the Second World War, we enjoyed a much more tranquil, enjoyable visit than previous American servicemen did. We stopped here for an evening meal before heading to our hotel. The next day would all be about WWII...

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Mardasson Memorial
Mardasson Memorial

Shaped in a giant star, this memorial commemorates the United States and the many soldiers who fought and died here to stave off one final German offensive at the end of 1944. It would be Hitler's last gasp, as the war would be over by April of the following year.

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Lecture Hall
Lecture Hall

Bob spoke to the group about the events leading up to the Battle of the Bulge. This small town in the hills and forests of the Ardennes had seven roads intersecting through it. It was a vital crossroads for the invading German tank units. American units distinguished themselves magnificently in this great contest.

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Band of Brothers
Band of Brothers

SSgt. Luke Murphy, veteran of Iraq and member of the 101st Airborne, stands in front of the giant plaque commemorating his proud division's accomplishments in this battle.

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Family Affair
Family Affair

This truly was a most important and enjoyable tour. What a great group of veterans and committed staff (many of whom are veterans as well).

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Bois Jacques
Bois Jacques

These woods have been made famous in HBO's excellent mini-series, "Band of Brothers," based on Stephen E. Ambrose's best-selling book. It was here that Easy Company was dug into the woods. Two Easy favorites lost their legs in a brutal artillery shelling into the trees here...

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Serious. Fun.
Serious. Fun.

And we certainly came here to pay tribute and learn plenty about this theater of the war, but we didn't forget the joy of each other's company, the privilege of travel, and the thanks of still being alive. The wounded veterans on this tour reminded the rest of that, most of all.

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The Other Side
The Other Side

One cannot study war and not consider the enemy's conditions, fate, and history. We paid tribute to the German soliders who fought in this conflict, visiting their cemetery not far away. Here one of our wounded warriors trades his sniper rifle for a camera...

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